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The Language of Art

“In an old house there is always listening, and more is heard than is spoken. And what is spoken remains in the room, waiting for the future to hear it. …” from the T.S. Eliot play, The Family Reunion, 1939

The artist with a recent work, “Marshall Hallway,” 40"x60". All paintings are acrylic on museum board.

The woman stands quietly to one side, listening—and hearing. And whether she is in Mexico or Touro, in Portugal or Leesburg, at Auschwitz or Ellis Island, she hears what she’s come to hear and to paint—spaces rich with spiritual remnants of past lives, spaces that are, as she says, “heavy with the presence of the past.” Snap, click, snap, click. Sherry Zvares Sanabria, BA ’59, goes through film quickly, photographing only to capture a “sketch” of her subject, for reference, and for inspiration.

“I have been painting these old buildings for 25 years now and my reasons for painting them have never changed,” she says. “I wonder if I will tire of it or find it does not feed me what I need.

“Light excites me, and the geometry of architecture; it gives you order and then you can paint freely within the order,” she explains.

Mainly, her work speaks for itself. A D.C. native and veteran of 18 one-person exhibitions, her paintings are widely exhibited. They are in the permanent collections of museums and other public spaces, as well as in numerous corporate and private collections, both in this country and in Europe.

“Green Door–Old City,” 40"x32"

September 5, 2002, marked a new milestone in Sanabria’s career. On that date, Sanabria’s latest major exhibition began, at the American Institute of Architects Gallery at 1735 New York Avenue, NW, in the heart of Washington. The exhibition features images of Israel, the Baltics, Berlin, the George Marshall House in Leesburg, and Slave Quarters in Virginia. The show remains up through the end of 2002. All images you see on this page hang in the exhibition.

According to Sanabria, her intent is “to entice the viewer to enter the painting and discover the mystery there, by creating the illusion of structure, light, and space coupled with a sense of quietness and timelessness.” The liquid quality of the light, and the geometry that is riveting and beautiful—even in places filled with pain—combine to make Sanabria’s work sing in a language all its own.
—Sandy Holland

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